The Blue Badge is so important because people with disabilities need appropriate parking spaces. There are so few disabled parking spaces in many areas that it is essential that those displaying a badge are legitimate Blue Badge holders.
We do know that there are people out there using a Blue Badge who shouldn’t be. It simply is a fact of life that this is going on, and it is making people suffer and have to walk and struggle much further distances than they should be, and it has to stop.
There is evidence that shows the misuse is sometimes being carried out by a family member or a friend of a Blue Badge holder. Therefore it could be a person that is using it inappropriately and perhaps – in the worst cases – without the knowledge of the person who is the legitimate Blue Badge holder.
I have often found that when looking for a place to park there are quite often cars without a Blue Badge using up the allocated spaces. Toughening up the laws would allow traffic wardens to take action on this. At the moment they do not have the power and have to call the police. So empowering the wardens will save time and money as well as helping cut the misuse.
We do know that there are about 4500 badges in circulation in Scotland at the moment for people who are actually dead. We know this as the badges expire and people are reapplying under the name of the dead person – in some cases a couple of years after their death.
It could well be – and undoubtedly in many cases is – that the badge lies in the drawer of a widow, widower, son, daughter or a loved one and is not being used. But I urge all people in this situation not to reapply for the badge if the person who it was allocated to help is no longer alive.
Now is the right time to look at this issue. There is a Parking Bill going through parliament at the same time and I think putting them together compliments both Bills.
We need to ensure that abuse and misuse of badges is tackled. There was legislation in 2010 but it didn’t give the enforcement power to traffic wardens or parking attendants, which meant that if a badge needed to be confiscated from a badge holder out on the street, the traffic attendant had to get a police officer to do it.
Previously there was a policy known as the “three convictions”, which acted as a series of warnings before the badge could be confiscated after three offences. We need to remove that and I propose that the legislation operates on a one strike policy. One offence and the badge is confiscated – that is what will make this effective. People will pay more attention; badge holders will think about where the badge is, who has got it, has it been stolen? Has it been lost? A little bit of toughening up on the legislation combined with common sense application could see a vast reduction in this offence which makes legitimate Blue Badge holders suffer.
I’m looking forward to hearing the views of Blue Badge holders, stakeholder organisations and MSPs from all parties to ensure that this legislation represents the best interests of disabled people and Blue Badge holders. The consultation will do just that.
Readers of the Evening News can give their input at bluebadgereponses@ scottish.parliament.uk
• Dennis Robertson is an SNP MSP who is a member of the equal opportunities committee.
WHEELS OF JUSTICE KEEP TURNING
EIGHT motorists fraudulently using disabled parking badges were caught during a two-day blitz in November.
In August 2010, former nursing home boss Humayun Reza was fined £7515 after making a fake parking permit by copying genuine permits issued to to residents.
A crackdown on Blue Badge fraud in January 2008 saw police hunt down 19 people, with one reported to the procurator fiscal and the others given warnings.
A year earlier, the Evening News told how a police officer was under investigation after being accused of illegally using a disabled badge to park for free outside Gayfield Square police station.
However, enforcers were forced to backtrack in September 2004 after
Linda Mitchell was slapped with a fine after leaving a photocopy of her disabled permit on her car and a note while she was renewing the permit at council offices in Waterloo Place.